Venturing into the Raw foods world: A super yummy vegan ‘Cheese Cake’

I have to confess…until a few months ago I did not know that there were an increasing number of folks in the world who were following a totally ‘raw foods’ diet!  My first reaction was – wow, that’s great – so healthy and ‘no need to cook’!  I looked over a lot of raw food bloggers’ websites  and saw how creative they were getting with their raw food recipes!  Gosh, it is mind boggling! Personally for me I don’t think I can manage a complete raw food diet since I would crave for warm food from time to time!  However, hats off to those who can pull it off and doing well with it.

So anyways as I have started following more raw food bloggers on my instagram, I continue to get inspired by their creations. One of these was the ‘raw cheese cake’ which is only made using nuts, dried fruits and other fruits! Watching numerous such vegan ‘cheese’ cakes and reading their recipes, I have been meaning to try making one for a few weeks now. The fact that I am currently on a AIP (autoimmune protocol) version of the Paleo diet was one reason – cos I am not allowed to eat nuts on this diet :(.  However, last week was hubby dear’s birthday. Him being a lover of cashew nuts , I thought why not give this raw cheese cake a try?

I looked for recipes and found that the basic recipe was pretty much same – nuts and dates for the crust or the base. And then a cashew nut cream filling. Then you can use your imagination for flavors – I decided to use mixed berries to create a two layer cake. And then topped it with a lot of fresh berries.  I also decided to do the crust only with shredded coconut and dates. I was so proud of my creation!  Our rhododendron had just blossomed too and the color of the topping of the cake perfectly matched with the light purple flowers! What a beautiful evening it was – my husband absolutely loved the taste of the cake!  He said it was better than any dairy cheese cake that he had before! The kids also loved it. I also had a couple bites – I had to see the result of my efforts, you see? 🙂  – Creamy, mildly sweet filling combined with the wonderful coconut crust  made for a delectable dessert! Simply superb is my verdict.

Btw, I would like to mention here a few of the bloggers who have inspired me to make this cake and whom I love to follow:

Edgar raw: https://www.instagram.com/edgarraw/?hl=en

Olivia from Lovehealthok : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoCEQG-JcqA

Sophie from A squirrel in the kitchen : http://asquirrelinthekitchen.com

Bringing this raw, vegan cake to the Plant based Potluck party this week.

Venturing into the Raw foods world: A super yummy vegan 'Cheese Cake'
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, sugar free dessert
Cuisine: Vegan raw cake
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 9 dates
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil melted
  • Pinch sea salt
For the Filling:
  • 2 cups cashew nuts soaked overnight
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup mixed berries
Instructions
  1. Soak cashew nuts in warm water and let sit for at least 24 hours.
  2. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch springform pan with parchment paper.
  3. For making the crust, in a food processor blend all the crust ingredients except the shredded coconut. Then mix this with the shredded coconut in a bowl to form a thick mixture. Press this mixture to the bottom of the pan. Freeze the pan for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make the filling by blending all the filling ingredients (without adding any water) except the berries to get a thick creamy filling.
  5. Pour ¾ of the this filling mixture onto the pan after the base has set. Then to the rest of the filling mixture, add the berries and again blend to get a creamy smooth mixture. Pour this over the top of the white filling layer. Place pan back in freezer for at least 5-6 hours.
  6. Remove pan from freezer about 30 mins before serving the cake.

Happy Vishu! : Papaya Coconut Halwa (Vegan,Paleo)

   Happy Vishu to all those who celebrate – Vishu falls on the 14th of April this year. In Kerala, the start of the Zodiac New Year is celebrated as ‘Vishu’. It is believed that what one sees when one first opens one’s eyes on Vishu morning is an indication of what one can expect in the year to come. Thus on the morning of Vishu, ‘Vishukkani’ is prepared, which is an assortment of beautiful things – the image or idol of Lord Vishnu, beautiful flower arrangements and a panorama of vegetables and fruits to show abundance. Even gold jewelry and gold coins are displayed as part of the kani. It is said to be auspicious to open one’s eyes before the decorated ‘vishukkani’ on Vishu morning. And an elaborate and delicious sadya just like Onam is prepared in all Malayalee households for Vishu.

Although I don’t usually prepare an elaborate sadya for Vishu, I do make some sweet dish at least. This year that was hard too considering my dietary restrictions. But I am one not to be easily discouraged – I decided to make this Papaya halwa.  Traditionally this halwa is made using milk and rice flour along with ripened papaya. But since I am on a paleo diet, I came up with some alternative ingredients – coconut milk instead of regular milk and coconut flour instead of rice flour. The coconut flour gave it a wonderful texture. I also skipped the sugar and used maple syrup instead. The halwa came out delicious!

Mind you, this version is indeed an easy version of the traditional halwa since I cooked it only for about 30 minutes until I got the desired fudge consistency. But I remember my aunts in kerala making the traditional version of papaya halwa by cooking it over slow fire for at least a couple hours stirring constantly. The resulting halwa under the laborious process is of course even more tastier with all the sugars in it getting caramelized completely. But the result of this easy vegan version is not far behind either. So I hope you do get to try making this!

The celebration of Vishu signifies the importance of ‘making a good start’ and of asking for divine blessings before embarking on a new project. Hope all your dreams for the following year come true!

Papaya Coconut Halwa (vegan, paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian, kerala, fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Papaya Halwa is a delectable dessert of Southern india and this version is a modified, vegan and paleo version of the traditional halwa using ripe papayas, coconut milk and coconut flour
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups ripe Papaya pieces pureed in blender
  • ¼ tsp or pinch salt
  • ½ cup thick coconut milk or coconut cream
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour (or desiccated coconut powder
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped nuts for garnish
Instructions
  1. Take a non stick frying pan or a wok style pan (kadai). Add the coconut oil and when hot, add the papaya puree to it. Add the salt and Cook on low heat stirring frequently for about 10 mins. You should begin to see the oil separating from sides.
  2. Next add the coconut milk and maple syrup and continue cooking on low heat stirring frequently. After about 10 mins, when you see the oil separating out again, add the coconut flour with the water to the papaya mixture. Stir very quickly to avoid forming any lumps and then continue to slow cook for another 5 mins stirring regularly until the mixture attaining a 'halwa' consistency - i.e. semisolid and smooth. Remove from heat. Serve garnished with the chopped nuts.
Notes
For AIP version: Skip the cardamom powder and the nuts

  

Mixed Berry ‘nice cream’ smoothie (Vegan, Paleo)

I love Instagram! Don’t know why I stayed away from it for so long! I am loving meeting different food bloggers and seeing their inspiring creations!  Am I inspired? Nope, I am floored! Gosh, so much talent out there and so many young kiddos creating such cool stuff. One of my favorite things in the morning (whilst waking up in bed) is to quickly check out the insta posts to get inspiration for my morning breakfast smoothie. These days along with smoothies, a new healthy deliciousness has been trending – ‘nice creams’!  He He, ‘nice cream’ sounds a bit shady but it  is nothing but a healthy version of ‘ice-cream’ which uses only fruits and other vegan ingredients.  Most recipes use frozen bananas to get the ‘nice cream’ texture. And then with that as the base, you can add different fruits – frozen or otherwise of your choice and blend everything to a creamy, smooth ‘nice cream’ texture 🙂 Oh so yum!

So these days mixed berries nice cream is my favorite afternoon snack to satisfy my sweet cravings!  I make sure I keep a few slices of bananas in the freezer at all times so i am adequately prepared to meet my cravings 🙂 The other morning I woke up to see a couple nice cream posts and oh, boy I started craving for one right away. So I decided to make a smoothie ‘nice cream’ for breakfast. A couple dashes of coconut milk gave it the perfect smoothie/nice cream texture. I made a separate blueberry compote to give it some additional richness and sophistication 🙂 Hey, you’ve gotta love your breakfast!

Hope you get inspired by this post to come up with some lovely creations of your own. Please do share with me! Btw, looks like spring is almost here! Yay!

Mixed Berry 'nice cream' smoothie (Vegan, Paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Snack, Dessert
Cuisine: Fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Mixed berries blended with frozen bananas and a dash of coconut milk to create this healthy and delicious 'nice cream' with a topping of blueberry sauce/compote
Ingredients
For the nice cream:
  • 1 banana, peeled, sliced and frozen for 3 hours or more
  • 1 cup mixed berries (I used combination of blueberries, raspberries and blackberries - if using frozen, thaw them to room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut cream or thick coconut milk
  • ½ cup water
For the blueberry compote(sauce):
  • ½ cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
  • ¼ cup water
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp tapioca starch mixed in 2 tbsp water to form a slurry
Instructions
  1. In a small cooking pot, add the blueberries, water, salt and maple syrup and cook for about 4-5 mins until the blueberries turn soft. Add the tapioca slurry and mix on low heat for another 2-3 minutes till you get a thick sauce. Turn heat off and transfer sauce to a container.
  2. Blend all the ingredients under 'nice cream' in a high speed blender until you get a creamy smooth consistency (should be like slightly thawed ice-cream)
  3. Take a tall glass or jar. Add some blueberry sauce on the bottom. Add 'nice cream' on top and drizzle more sauce on top. Top with berries!

 

Easy ‘No Bake’ Breakfast Bars (Sugar free, Vegan)

Healthy snacks are a big thing for me. I am constantly trying to make snacks that are nutritious and wholesome and that will satisfy two growing kids. One of whom is a teenager!  The hunger pangs start as soon as they get home from school although I make it a point to pack a healthy lunch and a snack for them. So the pantry is constantly being raided. I make them a healthy fruit smoothie and then try to stock up on lots of fruits so that they can eat those first before loading up on the crackers, bread etc.  I bake most weekends so that I can create goodies with less sugar or even make them sugar free (by using honey or maple syrup). That way there is always a stock of something homemade and healthy for that huge mid-day hunger attack!

Last week I decided to make something with oats since I had a huge bag of them leftover in my pantry.  Before I started on a Paleo diet 3 months ago, I used to eat oats regularly for my breakfast. And after I stopped eating them it was lying there unused since my husband is sensitive to oats and the kids just didn’t want to change from their regular cereal. So I was determined to use them up – I was thinking of making just some granola  like I posted before. But then suddenly I remembered seeing some recipes of oats bars on  pinterest. So I looked for those recipes and I ended up making a version of my own based on what I had on hand – I added pecans for nuts since that was the only nut I had in my pantry that day and used peanut butter for the base. I also used the food processor to puree the dates and to coarsely chop the nuts and the oats since I knew that would give them a better texture. I have been making a version of these bars – My healthy breakfast bars for quite sometime now and I always felt like chopping the nuts in a food processor gives the bars a better texture.

My experiment was very successful – thanks to all the other bloggers out there with their different recipes which makes it easier to innovate and come up with your own version. The kids as well as the hubby love these bars and considering these are much easier to make than my old version, I know these are going to be a ‘regular’ in my house going forward 🙂

Easy 'No Bake' Breakfast Bars (Oat and nut bars)
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Snacks
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 bars
 
Healthy 'breakfast bars' or 'anytime snack' with oats and nuts; No Baking needed!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts (or any other nuts)
  • 1½ cups rolled oats (NOT quick cooking)
  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • ¼ cup maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ cup unsalted organic peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
  2. In a large baking tray lined with parchment paper, spread the oats and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Transfer the oats to a plate.
  3. To the same tray add the pecans or walnuts (or other nuts if raw) and toast for about 5 minutes.
  4. In a food processor or chopper, pulse the oats and the nuts together for about 20-30 seconds until the nuts get crushed (big chunks) and oats also get chopped a bit. Keep aside.
  5. In a food processor, add the dates along with the hot water and blend until you get a thick pasty consistency.
  6. In a cooking pot, add this date mixture, the maple syrup(or honey), salt and the peanut butter (or almond butter) and heat for about 2-3 minutes until everything blends together. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and the oats and the nuts mixture. Mix well using a large wooden spoon/spatula.
  8. Dump this mixture into a square brownie pan lined with parchment paper with an overhang. Pat the mixture using the back of a small bowl (or use another sheet of parchment to press on the top).
  9. Place pan in the freezer for an hour (or refrigerator for about 2 hours)
  10. Take out the pan from the freezer/refrigerator and slide the parchment with the bar onto a cutting board and cut the block into bars of desired size using a large knife.
Notes
You can toast the oats and nuts in a pan on the stove too instead of toasting them in the oven.
Once set, bars can be stored at room temperature (65-75 deg F) for about 5 days or in the refrigerator for unto 2 weeks.

 

Apricot Coconut Balls (Vegan, Paleo)

I have been ‘refined sugar’ free for more than a year now and tell you what…I don’t miss it at all!  In fact I feel so awful that I was eating all that unnecessary refined sugar all these years.  Once you go completely sugar free you will start reaching out for the natural sugars as in fruits, dried fruits and other natural products like honey and maple syrup.  And the best thing is that the natural products do not give you a sugar rush plus they all provide beneficial nutrients to your body in addition to just sweetness.

But sometimes you do crave for sweets because you crave for that texture.  For example even though I have not felt deprived for the most part, I sometimes have this craving for Indian sweets like coconut barfi (fudge) or coconut ladoo (sweetened balls)!  That’s when I began to experiment.  I made date, almond and coconut rolls which are absolutely delicious and are now a permanent snack in my home – my son just loves them! My Date nut truffles are also equally amazing and so decadent they feel like an absolute treat!  I also made a dates and Nut Barfi (fudge) with dates, almonds and walnuts and that is again absolutely delicious with the gooey fudge texture.

So two weeks ago my cravings for texture meant I had to experiment again since I am on the Autoimmune protocol diet and so I cannot do nuts either.  So I scratched my brains and scanned the available items for me in my pantry and apricots and dates were the winners!. I really wanted something that had a texture like a coconut ladoo and so that made me come up with these apricot coconut balls.  Oh boy, the texture of these balls are amazing. The coconut flour just gives it the soft but dense texture that I was craving for! And that’s not all – it gets even better! OK so all you need for this recipe are just 3 ingredients! Yes! Dried Apricots, Dates and coconut flour. And Shredded Coconut to roll them in.

And yes you do need a food processor. These balls came together in less than 15 minutes though from start to finish. The first time I made it, I had made a very small experimental batch and I could make around 8 balls and they were all gone in 2 days! And that was just me eating all of them!  SO then of course I had to make them again. And again. You see I had to perfect the recipe too so I could share with you guys 🙂

I used lemon zest the first time to get an additional burst of flavor and that gave a wonderful freshness to the balls.  The second time I tried cardamom powder so that I could get the taste to be very close to the Indian coconut ladoo.  I loved that too. SO you can pick your flavor. Maybe you will come up with some additional ideas. Even if you don’t add anything the apricots give it enough flavor already. If you are 100% AIP compliant then you cannot do cardamom.  Over the past one month I have been able to add all my spices (Indian) back to my diet without much complaints. So I am ecstatic. And completely blissful when I eat these apricot coconutties!

Linking this recipe to the Plant based Potluck party Link up this week!

Apricot Coconut Balls (Vegan, Paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Healthy Snack
Cuisine: Raw, Vegan, Paleo
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
 
Delicious and healthy treat made of dried apricots, dates and coconut
Ingredients
  • 10 Apricots
  • 10 Dates
  • ½ cup warm water for soaking
  • About ½ cup coconut flour (I used 'Let's Do Organic' brand)
  • ¼ tsp zest of one organic lemon (or ¼ tsp cardamom powder)
  • ½ cup shredded coconut for rolling (I used 'Let's do organic' brand)
Instructions
  1. Soak the dates in a small bowl in the warm water for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a food processor bowl, add the apricots and the dates along with the water used for soaking. You should get a thick pasty mixture.
  3. AT this stage, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and add the coconut flour and the lemon zest or cardamom powder to it.
  4. Mix the coconut flour with the apricot date mixture using a spatula or your hands to form a smooth non sticky dough. (You may need to add slightly more coconut flour if your dough is sticky)
  5. Roll the dough into small balls and roll in shredded coconut
Notes
You could add the coconut flour also to the food processor and form the dough in it.
For AIP compliant, use only lemon zest and no cardamom